Overview of Pancreatic Cancer
The pancreas is a 6-inch organ located behind the stomach in the back of the abdomen. The head of the pancreas is on the right side of the abdomen where the stomach is attached to the first part of the small intestine (duodenum). The tail of the pancreas-its narrowest part-extends to the left side of the abdomen next to the spleen. The pancreas contains exocrine and endocrine glands that create pancreatic juices, hormones and insulin. Pancreatic juices, or enzymes, made by the exocrine glands are released into the intestines by way of ducts in order to help digest fat, proteins and carbohydrates. Over 95% of the pancreas is made up of exocrine glands and ducts (aide in digestion). The other 5% are endocrine glands which release insulin and glucagon into the bloodstream. These two hormones manage levels of sugar in the blood. When they are not working properly, the result is often diabetes.
Pancreatic cancer occurs when uncontrolled cell growth begins in the pancreas. Rather than developing into healthy, normal pancreas tissue, these abnormal cells continue dividing and form lumps or masses of tissue called tumors. Tumors then interfere with the main functions of the pancreas. Because pancreatic cancer is usually diagnosed late into its development, the five-year survival rate after diagnosis is less than 5%.
What Qualifies A Patient with Pancreatic Cancer for Hospice
1. Pancreatic Cancer diagnosis
2. Metastasis of the cancer to a secondary location
3. A Physician who reports poor likelihood of survival beyond 6 months
4. Refusal or completion of treatments curative in nature (chemo/radiation)
The second qualification is optional but not a must if you have 1,3,4
We Generally See the Following Areas of Decline While Patient is on Hospice and Have Appropriate Treatment Plans In Place
1. Pain in the upper abdomen from the tumor pushing against nerves. (GI in
nature: sharp, shooting, sporadic, waves).
2. Jaundice, created when the cancer interferes with the bile duct and the liver
3. Loss of appetite, nausea and vomiting
4. Significant weight loss and weakness
5. Acholic stool (pale or grey stool) and steatorrhea (excess fat in stool)
6. Trouseau sign(medical sign observed in patients with low calcium)
Symptoms of Pancreatic Cancer are often vague and often called a “silent disease”. Call us with any questions or for a consultation.
Early admission into a hospice program allows more time for the hospice team to fully understand the patient’s and family’s needs and to develop a suitable and sensitive plan of care.
Gayla Lynn Clark, BSN
- Education: Fort Hays State University-Hays KS. BS in Home Economics/Nutrition and graduated with BSN Nursing in Dec 1995. Director of Nursing for SNF-14 years. She was worked with TVH for 3 years.
- Birth place: Great Bend, KS
- Reason for choosing Idaho: Used to visit family- fell in love with the outdoors and all the beauty. Moved here after graduating.
- Family: Tom x 3 kids (Aubrey, Megan and Jeremy) x3 grandchildren
- Pets: 2 kitty’s (Mr. Tuley and Tashi Marie) , 1 BIG dog (Samson)
- Hobbies: Scrapbooking, reading, white water rafting, camping, working out and spending time with friends and family.
- Favorite thing about TVH: Loves the time she gets to spend with the patient and their families. She loves how they become a part of our family.
- Bucket List: Travel with her husband- Hope to someday see Germany, Ireland and Italy.
- Favorite Quote: “Life is not measured by the breaths you take but by the moments that take your breath away” –author anonymous
The Hospice Nurse assesses and responds to care needs such as
medication and medical equipment, and is central to the coordination of
roles of all team members, along with education of family members and
other caregivers. Provides 24-hour consultation and care as needed.
View our full Newsletter here: Newsletter 2015 Jan issue 1